2:13 p.m. update: Several gas stations received deliveries today, causing backups into roadways such as University Boulevard in east Orlando. Some lines were 20 to 30 people long at midday today. -- Jim Leusner, Sentinel Staff Writer.
Gas lines and shortages were the late-breaking insult to injury delivered by Hurricane Charley.
Many Central Floridians venturing out from their powerless and waterless homes Sunday found themselves on a futile trek across metro Orlando in search of gas.
By early Sunday afternoon, virtually all gas stations and convenience stores with pumps fell into one of three categories: gas but no power; power but no gas; no gas or power. Rare as central air Sunday was a store with gas and the power to pump it.
Charley hit Florida Rock with a one-two punch. Normally, Florida Rock tankers serving Orlando draw from the company's storage facility at Taft, in south Orange County. But with no power in Taft to pump the gas, Florida Rock tankers have had to gas up in Tampa, Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale -- doubling the delivery time. Add to that the oil barges in Tampa Bay that have been waiting for Charley to pass before docking.
Friday, the day Charley arrived in Central Florida, Florida Rock stopped filling tankers and sending them out on the road. "We were rolling as early as we could Saturday," Kemp said. "We had trucks that were preloaded. But we have 100 orders we haven't been able to deliver. We're 72 hours behind."
Motorists scouring metro Orlando on Sunday for gas grew accustomed to the sight of pump handles wrapped in plastic shopping bags or red covers.
As the day wore on, gas shortages became outages and produced a cruel mirage: Convenience stores where vehicles were pulled up to the pumps, seemingly in the process of being fueled. But no! It turned out that motorists had turned the useless fuel bays into parking spaces for beer and soda runs into the store.
Rex Hesler of Winter Park ran out of gas looking for gas, though in retrospect he never had a chance. Hesler admits the gauge was on empty when he began driving up and down Goldenrod Road and University Boulevard, finally sputtering to a stop near Goldenrod and Aloma Avenue.
Gas can in hand, he hitched a ride to the 7-Eleven at State Road 436 and Howell Branch Road, which was rumored to have gas. It did -- a full load. The bad news is that the underground tanks had been sucked so dry the pumps had lost their suction.
The 7-Eleven manager had ordered a new part to prime the pumps and hoped it would arrive in an hour or two. Hesler had no choice but to join the throng of glum motorists, their vehicles circling the station like a wagon train.
Greg Dawson can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5415.